For years I farmed under the name Sweet Earth Organic Farm. While I loved the name and the images it evokes, I was required* to change the farm's name by a Sweet Earth company who must defend their new Federal Trademark. Rather than fight Goliath, I decided to use this as an opportunity to highlight and celebrate the 40th anniversary of my 1974 organic certification - and - to "turn over a new leaf" with our new name - Willow Ridge Organic Farm.
I chose the image of a willow tree for several reasons. My farm sits atop a ridge that overlooks some of the most beautiful country anywhere. Just outside my house is a weeping willow tree that's been here longer than I have. It's the only willow on the ridge. It was magnificent when I moved here from Chicago to homestead, and it still stands and holds its ground today. It provided a playground and a refuge for my three children, and now my grandchildren. Being both firmly planted on a sturdy trunk and still putting forth its supple branches - its strength, deep roots, and resilience is an inspiration.
Over these past 40+ years, I've witnessed the shifting sands of the farming landscape. I've been an activist for the "right kind of farming" while balancing a variety of marketing strategies, including farmers markets, wholesale, cooperative selling, and CSA. I've witnessed and struggled through the farm crisis of the 1980's and came out bruised but still standing while many of my farmer friends weren't so lucky. And now, I'm watching new farms and farmers grace the frontier that many of us, as pioneers, helped to navigate.
The burgeoning local food movement has brought more consumer appreciation of the benefits of eating good, clean food grown closer to home, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has helped to grow that movement. I was among some of the earliest Midwest farms to offer CSA to the greater Chicago community. Now after many years of CSA, I'm calling on some of that willow's resilience to adapt and meet the needs of this exciting marketplace.
*Following is the Cease and Desist letter I received from Sweet Earth Natural Foods: